Thursday, 17 May 2018

Plagued by good weather?

The Safari has had little time for keeping you all up to date with our goings-on of late, what with good weather meaning we've been out n about a lot and some serious family stuff to contend with there's not been much time for putting finger to keyboard.
So here's a very swift catch up of what's been about
Swift (155, PYLC #124) - rubbishy pic taken at Lunt Meadows which we hope to improve on but they do seem to be horrendously scarce round these parts this year.
Sedge Warbler (PYLC #125) Lunt Meadows again
Grey Partridge (156) a pair seen as we drove out of Lunt Meadows and unable to get a pic, the Little Owls in the nearby barn weren't one show - AGAIN!!!
A stunning full sum plum Black Necked Grebe 157, PYLC #126) rocked up on a local park lake and was thoroughly enjoyed by hordes of birders showing down to point black range while the resident Mute Swans, Grey Lag Geese, other waterflowl and Herons were oblivious to its presence.
Aquatic Emu?
Not far away non-feathered interest was found in the form of a male Great Crested Newt
What's left of Stanley Park, after some horrifically late tree felling including probably illegally taking down a tree with an active nest box containing eggs on it, held host to unseen Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher but we did catch up with the Garden Warblers (158, PYLC #127) thanks to TS waving us over and later in the day we managed to twitch but not photograph a Wood Warbler (159) not far from Base Camp on the North Blackpool Pond Trail. A pair of Swallows (PYLC #128) posed nicely at the start of the road on the way back, another species that seems to be horrendously low in numbers in their usual haunts so far this season - just late or a winter/migration catastrophe somewhere...we hope it's the former...

A rare trip into town gave us the opportunity to take a quick snap of a Lesser Black Backed Gull (PYLC #129) but the local Peregrines were nowhere to be seen.

Whinchats (160, PYLC #130) were all the rage in early May and we eventually caught up with a pair on Lawson's Wetland/Marton Mere getting very wet feet in the process, the dry spell hadn't really dried out the wetlands that much!
Whitethroats (PYLC #131) have done an excellent job of avoiding our lens and this grotty attempt is the only passable pic we've got of one so far this season and it's really not that good.
Having seen but not photographed the Spoonbills at Marshside on the Southside we did a little better with the recent two Glossy Ibises (161, PYLC #132) although the light and distance were 'challenging'!
At Base Camp the moth trapping has been dire although a 'New for Garden' Marbled Coronet was big surprise and the rarely captured Pebble Prominent is always a treat.
Marbled Coronet
Pebble Prominent
This afternoon we joined the Living Seas LWT team at Rossall Tower for their monthly seawatch and picked up a few Grey Seals, surprisingly late for our first of the year, and at least seven and probably eight Harbour Porpoises including a pod of three that was caught up by a fourth. Sadly all a bit distant for the majority of other watchers without scopes to get a good look at but well worth the two hour session...and we're in joint charge of the next one!

Well that's it for your quick catch up, hope you enjoyed it.

Where to next? An earlyish jaunt to the hills out east in the morning

In the meantime let us know who's not where they should be yet in your outback.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Bird bingo

The Safari joined PT to lead the North Blackpool Pond Trail's Bird Bingo family event last Saturday morning. The birds were on fine form, showing well, it's just a shame the families didn't make such a good showing too. Maybe people are doing other stuff on Saturday mornings and Sunday might be a better day for more people to be able to come along.
The birding is quite easy at Kincraig Lake as the birds are more than willing to come close and grab a beakful of whatever is on offer so you can get some nice portrait shots of old favourites like this male Mute Swan.
The sun shone bringing out the finery of the drake Mallards.
Also present was a very tame Heron which has become accustomed to eating bread - Can't be good for it!
Note its iris, it seems to be deformed and not circular like its other one, an old injury perhaps or was it born like that?
There are three Herons' nests on the wooded island this year but now the spring buds are unfurling they are quite difficult to see unless you can watch the birds flying in to them.
Birds came and went and we saw Woodpigeons display flighting, Collared Doves passing by, Feral Pigeons doing circuits and a lone Stock Dove heading north - never really imagined seeing one of those at this sight, weird or what, it certainly wasn't on the Bird Bingo tick-off sheets!
One of the Woodpigeons alighted on the fence to our left so we crept closer for a better look
As we were edging closer a Common Sandpiper (154, YLPC #123) flew past us
And landed on the edge of the viewing area just behind the fence almost right beneath the Woodpigeon.
It was quite wary and flew round several times looking for the best feeding opportunities around the lake which has no muddy margins, eventually after waiting most of the morning it came reasonably close.
Where there's water and bread there's inevitably Coots, this one had a nest under construction close by but wasn't going to pass up a free lunch
And if there's Coots there's inevitably Moorhens
A young father and his very young son had tipped out what looked like some porridge oats, neither the Coot nor the Moorhen could pick up the small pieces left after the Mallards had had their fill of the choices and largest flakes in the conventional downward pecking manner we're used to seeing birds do but resorted to this unusual sideways forceps pincer peck to glean the pickings from the hard concrete.
Ever cautious at any hint of danger or anything untoward even if totally not dangerous the Moorhen would scurry to the water's edge where it waited a while before taking the plunge if necessary, which it rarely was.
From the scrub we heard Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcaps and watched House Sparrows collecting feathers for their nest in the houses across the road.
Wandering around the lakeside path we came across our first Speckled Wood butterfly of the year and then spotted this collection of still sleepy Garden Snails.
Back at the viewing area chat had got round to news of a strange video of a deer sleeping on a dumped sofa - how comfy but how odd. Well knock us down wiff a feaver not twenty yards further on was a dumped sofa but this one had a one eyed cat sleeping on it. You couldn't rite it - well errr - we just did!
After giving us the evils for disturbing it it went back into comfy cat mode
Good to see someone has provided a ramp so it doesn't have to leap so high to get on the arm rest - fly tipping at its most considerate?
Further on out of the woods and back in the sunshine a big queen Red Tailed Bumble Bee was giving the pathside Dandelions a good going over.
Dandelions get such bad press so much so that they are the 'weed of choice' for the garden herbicide advertisers and yet they do so much good for the early pollinators enabling them to build up their populations - we should be celebrating them rather than demonising and obliterating them. Us humans really can't stand anything that thrives amongst us we didn't put there can we. Just think of all those expansive and expensive swathes of yellow Daffodils along the roadsides, we could have Dandelions, Lesser Celandine, Cowslips and Primroses for free - but no we'd probably mow and spray them off as soon as they appeared in the name of 'tidiness' -  what a ridiculous species we are.
Rounding the corner our group stopped to let this female Blackbird finish her ablutions.
Back at the viewing area the Common Sandpiper was still flying round and eventually settled on the remains of an old Willow bush. Not where you'd expect to see one but apparently they have been know to sing from the branches of riverside trees on their territories up on the hillside streams and smaller rivers.
A morning's birding in the sun wouldn't be complete without a raptor or two and we had three...a big female Sparrowhawk soared overhead before disappearing only to be found by the local Magpies in the wooded area when we walked through that way. A Buzzard gave a good display of 'skydancing' as it mooched sort or northeast wards and then this came over. At first when we first picked it up coming towards us being mobbed by a throng of gulls we hoped it might be an early Honey Buzzard, but the jizz wasn't right, then as it drew nearer it looked Osprey-ish for a moment but then was obviously far too long tailed. We tried to get some pics but it was quite high and the camera refused to pick it up against the sky until it was annoyingly well past us. we only got this one poor usable shot and now we're pretty sure it's a immature male Marsh Harrier - answers on the usual post card please.
Right at the death a family did turn up but only to feed the ducks...and the Heron!
Isn't urban wildlife great!
Yesterday we had a mooch round Marton Mere with CR calling in at the Woodland Gardens first to see if we could find the male Pied Flycatcher LR had told us he'd found there a couple of hours earlier. Needless to say it had moved on and with not a lot else on show in there we did too.
Our mission was to get some pics of the summer warblers for our challenge but they weren't playing ball, singing yes but showing no. Grasshoppper Warbler, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler all noisy but invisible. The first bird to hit the SD card was a Linnet swaying away in the cold brisk wind on a thin stem poking out above the Bramble thicket.
At the Bird Club hide interest was provided by the first family of Coots we've come across this spring. Our first Swift (155) of the year dropped in with a few Swallows too.
The embankment was cold in the wind and again the Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers were all keeping out of sight, fortunately a Reed Bunting bucked the trend and sang from an exposed perch.
The scrub taunted us with mostly invisible Blackcaps and Whitethroats. C managed a couple of snaps of a Blackcap and a Sedge Warbler deep in cover but try as we might we couldn't get the camera on to anything at all.
That said when all seems lost nature pulls a blinder for you. After seeing not a lot from the viewing platform we turned to leave and C spotted some bee activity around a patch of Nettles catching the sun. Patient watching revealed them as a species of Nomad Bee, we don't think we've ever seen any species of these here before. wit hour birding 600mm lenses getting pics was tricky to say the least. But we both were able to get a few and they look like Nomada flava (based on this one being a male [pale yellow eyes] having all dark antennae) but we could be wrong, they're not an easy group to ID
If the are N. flava they've not been recorded locally before according to the NBN map, Preston 15 miles away being the closest dot. Happy days!

Where to next? Family day on the Southside tomorrow but we might see something if we get a chance

In the meantime let us know who's buzzing around for the first time in your outback

Friday, 27 April 2018

Hope that wasn't summer

The Safari had a couple of early morning wanders around Marton Mere last weekend, arriving at just before 07.00 hours. It was lively both mornings but better on Saturday. Grasshopper Warblers (147) reeled, Cetti's Warblers exploded, Blackcaps warbled, Lesser Whitethroats rattled and fresh in that day Whitethroats (148) scratched. The place was alive with bird song in the almost warm sunshine.
Willow Warbler (PYLC #117)
We took the outside path and sauntered slowly down to The Nook returning via Mere View where we found three Tree Sparrows (PYLC #121) mostly secreted in the dense Blackthorn thicket. We didn't get a pic but went back the following morning to get this one.
It was a bit harrowing (pun intended!) to see the farmer rolling the pasture, OK they'll say they have to do it to get better grass growth but if there were any Lapwing nests on there, and there have been a couple of pairs displaying, they won't have any eggs now. Lets hope they were late or can re-lay, incubate and get agile youngsters off before the next 'essential' agricultural operation.
Down along the embankment we found a Wheatear and another bird on the same fence further along which could have been a Whinchat but was just out of range for our bins. By the time we'd walked down to the bridge to get a closer look they'd both gone so perhaps the mystery bird was 'only' a well coloured Wheatear. We lurked furtively at the new pond dipping platform for ages but neither bird reappeared.
We retraced our steps along the embankment listening to several Reed Warblers, a few Cetti's Warblers and a Sedge Warbler (149). Round the corner we waited for a loud and obviously close Cetti's Warbler to show itself and managed a couple of Blue Tit pics while we waited.
Patience paid off and the Cetti's Warbler (PYLC #118) did eventually show itself and much better than expected, took us aback a little so our camera settings weren't quite right - more feeble excuses for a poor pic!
There wasn't much visible in the scrubby areas but song from Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats were order of the day along with Song Thrushes and Wrens. We weren't going to go to the Feeding Station as feeding has now stopped for the summer but something made us change our mind. On the way something dark brown caught our eye in the other section of the reserve, taking a pic to enlarge it it was a row of pot plants, and then we saw other stuff - several cheeky blighters have extended their gardens into the nature reserve with an array of pot plants, compost bins and heaps and even a trampoline!
We've reported the incursion so hopefully they'll be thrown back over the garden fences where they belong. Slightly miffed we continued the few yards to the Feeding Station and saw a small bird flycatching from the side of the nearest Apple tree, at first we hoped it would be one of the flycatchers most likely Pied Flycatcher but realised it was probably 'only' a Blackcap but when we got the bins on it it was a cracking male Redstart! Get in! (150, MMLNR #73). unfortunately we weren't able to get a pic as it shot through the scrub to the sunny side almost as soon as we'd spotted it.
happy we hit the track back to the car passing a lovely male Blackbird on the way. It might be a simple colour scheme but it's still stunning.
Even better was the Grasshopper Warbler reeling away very close to the path and then we caught a glimpse and were able to creep in to a position in advance of it as it made its way through the tangle of last year's stems.
Very chuffed to get a half decent shot (PYLC #119) - why do they never perch out in the open for us like the seem to do on countless occasions for all those folk on Twitter and Facebook? And then it did us the honour of singing right at us!
One of the objectives of the day was to get a pic of a singing Blackcap but they were all ever so elusive being almost invariably heard  and not seen apart from the odd little flit deep in cover. Almost back at the car we did spot one out in the open and was able to snatch a couple of iffy shots of it (PYLC #120). Woulda been a better pic had we let go of Monty's lead!
A dog walk with Wifey up to Rossall gave us a couple of Common Terns (151) sitting on a floating pallet just offshore and very little else. Then after a family visit we had half an hour late lunch break at Marshside RSPB reserve wher we found a cracking 2CY Mediterranean Gull lurking in among the throng of Black Headed Gulls and Avocets. Also there were a couple of Spoonbills (152), great to see  if a little distant and they they did a close formation fly-past rifght in fron of the hide and we didn't have a camera with us...Oh no man!!! 
Yesterday we had a mooch down the North Blackpool Pond Trail seeing our first House Martins (153) of the year  skimming low over the footy fields in the dull cold and windy conditions. Close by a Whitethroat sang but wasn't for showing itself.
On the return leg we had a look at the Black Pond and found a Heron up to its knees in the awfully invasive Crassula, New Zealand Pygmy Weed. Wherever that Heron goes next it's going to give it a dose of the nasty stuff.
A hundred yards further on and we found a few Swallows and House Martins skimming over a wet patch in one of the horse paddocks. 100 pics later and we got just one that's almost passable for the challenge.
House Martins (PYLC #122)
No we didn't manage to get any pics of the more numerous Swallows - they were just far too quick for us!
A quick scoot between the dog walkers on the top wildflower area had us find just one Bee Orchid rosette, there's probably more but it needs to be quieter to have a proper look.
This morning we planned to go back to Marton Mere but the threatened rain started as soon as we got Monty in the car so we had a change of plan and headed for the cliffs. At first it seemed like nothing much was happening. We noted the clumps of Great Burnet beginning to sprout so added them to iRecord.
and then not too many yards along the path spotted something that's obviously been there a long time but we've never noticed before, a small stunted Apple tree and you'll never guess what there was a similarly scratty bonsai-d Willow not ten paces away. The more you look the more you see, the more you see the more you learn. We looked and looked for anything else we might have missed over the years but those were enough for one day.
The Apple 'tree'
The Willow bush
 There were no birds to be seen on the way north but coming back we saw three Shelducks going south well out to sea. Shortly after a light shower a female Wheatear was seen working its way  along the bottom of the cliffs. Three, two and a single Swallows tazzed up and down along the cliff face gleaning whatever insects were in the air after the rain, the first we've seen here this year. Never mind first of the year a first EVER was about to pop up in front of us in the form of two Woodpigeons walking along the path not far in front of us. Fortunately Monty was well behaved and didn't flush them. We were able to get a bit of phone pic - no camera again!
Wasn't expecting them! Isn't Nature is ace - it always has the knack of throwing you a curve ball

Where to next? It's Bird Bingo with the kids on the Pond Trail tomorrow, what will we find?

In the meantime let us know who you weren't expecting in your outback